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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Pop quiz time. Who is Ted Kaufman?

a) The late comedian who in 1975 guest-starred on the network television premiere of Saturday Night Live.

b) The former owner of the Kansas City Royals;

c) A villain, played by Vincent Schiavelli, in a mediocre James Bond film, or,

d) Your newest U.S. Senator!

Yes, ladies and germs, if you picked answer ‘d’, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win this beautiful parcel of land mere yards away from Du Pont Chemical’s scenic thorium manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Delaware!

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Kaufman, who is Joe Biden’s former chief of staff, is almost certainly a placeholder for Joseph Biden III (“Beau”), Delware’s Attorney General and a Captain in the Army National Guard who was recently deployed to Iraq but who may declare himself eligible for Delaware’s Special Election in 2010. A series of better-known candidates, such as Lieutenant Governor John Carney and Secretary of State Harriet Smith Windsor, were passed over by departing governor Ruth Ann Minner.

I am not much of a fan of this decision. Kaufman may well make for a perfectly competent senator — as a former chief of staff, he’ll probably know his way around the Hill better than half the people who actually hold office there. And I don’t have a problem in general with the idea of appointing a placeholder, as I’ve advocated that Rod Blagojevich should do in Illinois.

But I think there ought to be some minimum threshold of public stature for a senate appointee — preferably an elected official like Windsor or for that matter Minner herself, particularly when the appointment is made by an outgoing, retiring governor who is no longer accountable to public opinion. Kaufman, who did not even have a Wikipedia page until two weeks ago, does not really meet that threshold.

EDIT: To clarify, the difference between this situation and the one in Illinois is that Emil Jones is a prominent elected official — the president of the Illinois State Senate. I would also have a problem with, say, Valerie Jarrett being the appointee in Illinois or David Plouffe in Delaware, both of which have been rumored at various times.

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